A Response to “What’s Wrong with the Religious Right:”

It has been exciting to see so much activity on Consanguinity this week. I enjoyed reading the comments on Matt’s post, which is why I have chosen to recap that discussion and provide my own take on it. Matt established a growing problem in the Religious Right, excessive partisanship, and reminded us that our only commitment is to Christ and the Church, not to any political entity, which reminds me of some of my favorite words that Jesus spoke. Pilate asks him “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” Clearly divine citizenship is of a greater kind than worldly citizenship.

The interesting question debated in the comments is this: is it right for someone to abstain from voting between two presidential candidates that he cannot fully endorse, even if one is clearly more compatible with his political views? This question has been a hot topic ever since James Dobson said that he could not vote for John McCain on account of his views on abortion and stem-cell research. It does seem, however, that McCain supports the general political stance that Dobson would support, when these two issues are cast aside. It must be true, then, that in Dobson’s view, it would be better for John McCain to be President of the United states than a Democratic candidate. What possible benefit could come from such a stance, which at first glance seems arrogant and disrespectful of our privilege to vote? I wish to briefly consider the pros and cons of such a move.

First, James Dobson has a lot of visibility as a religious figure in the United States. His decision to abstain from voting for president has already made a splash and may go a long way to provide an impetus for change within the Republican party, or perhaps within the Evangelical Church’s voting base, to find candidates with Biblical views. In this way, his abstaining becomes a kind of “civil disobedience,” inasmuch as he means to bring about political change by doing so. It is important to see that a normal citizen, deprived of the visibility of someone such as James Dobson, has very little leverage to bring about this kind of change, which means that it is much harder for a private citizen to justify abstaining.

While it is hard for me to make an overall judgment in this matter, I see some real potential dangers with this move. First of all, if enough evangelicals follow suit by not voting, “Roe v. Wade” will stay alive for another 25 years, and it won’t be God’s judgment on America, but the Evangelical church that is to blame for the thousands of babies being aborted daily. Second, many may not understand that Dobson’s move is largely based on his significant visibility, or misunderstand him in another way, which could ultimately lead to a laxidasical stance toward voting in general. Third, Dobson may now be perceived as arrogant and politically “holier than thou” by non-Christians all across America, which can ultimately become yet another barrier hindering the progress of the Gospel.

Matt helped us see that the Religious Right needs to change. It is much harder to see how that should be accomplished.

-James, the younger brother

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5 Responses to A Response to “What’s Wrong with the Religious Right:”

  1. NoPockets says:

    He could just state that he is not happy with John McCain and figure out another way to bring about change in the Republican party. By doing what he has, he has promoted non-voting as a way of civil disobedience, which as you stated is not largely beneficial for those not in the public eye. It’s not the same as boycotting Wal-Mart where they want to change to get your money back. Not voting completely flies under the radar for most people and I think we all agree that voting is something that Christians should not only consider carefully, but that we should do this to help keep our country’s leader as close as we can to what God would want in a leader. No one is perfect, so sometimes the ‘next best thing’ is better than nothing and I think this is a case where that is true.

  2. James says:

    I definitely see your point. As Christians, we have a significant responsibility in choosing the best leader that we can, and it seems like James Dobson could achieve the very same thing in another way, without introducing these dangers. I think that he is really trying to do what he thinks will have the greatest impact on the political climate, but it does seem rather Machiavellian.

  3. Matt says:

    I suspect that where Dobson goes wrong is in endorsing a specific candidate to begin with. This has in the past led him to a feeling of failure when “his” candidate doesn’t promote all of the values that he supports. My suspicion is that it is more healthy for public religious figures to focus on values and issues as opposed to parties and candidates.

    I also feel that publicly expressing that he will not vote is a poor example. Gushee actually addresses this issue specifically in his book. His take that is that evangelicals have taken too much of a boom and bust approach to involvement in politics. We rally together behind a candidate or party because we think they will be able to make some major change. That change doesn’t happen and so we throw our hands up and give up on politics. Gushee advocates a more sustained approach where we don’t tie ourselves so closely to any one candidate or party.

  4. allisonsjournal says:

    I believe we have a responsibility to our environment, but I do not believe in “global warming”. If you’ll look at time lines, from the beginning of time, climate has fluxuated up and down. Scientists are split 50/50 on this issue, and I believe some groups are taking it to the extreme in a negative way.

  5. Matt says:

    Allisonsjournal,
    You might look at the discussion in the comments on my most recent post “Global Warming is a Life Issue.” You are correct that the climate undergoes constant natural fluctuations. However, it is precisely this background of fluctuations that gives much of the cause for concern and much of the evidence that we are currently experiencing climatic changes that are not caused by natural climate forcing. As a scientist myself (involved in both the physics and earth science communities) I can say that there is a pretty wide consensus about human-caused global warming. While there are some people who do not agree with the theory, it is far from 50/50. I agree with you though that some people have taken the theory and run too far with it (likely with political motivations).

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